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Applicants wait in line to enter a job fair at an Amazon fulfillment center on August 2, 2017, in Kent, Washington.

Varughese murder trial
Lawyer for man charged in Pravin Varughese death files motion to move trial out of Jackson Co.; state plans to object

MURPHYSBORO — The defense attorney for Gaege Bethune has filed a change of venue motion in an attempt to move his client’s trial out of Jackson County.

Contributed by Jackson County Jail 

Gaege Bethune

Bethune, 23, of Marion, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the death of Pravin Varughese, a 19-year-old student who was found dead in the woods behind the Carbondale Buffalo Wild Wings on Feb. 18, 2014. 

Bethune's attorney, Michael Wepseic, says in his motion that the extensive media coverage of the case has had an indelible influence on the opinions of many people. Along with the motion, he included several news stories printed from various news organizations' websites, including The Southern Illinoisan. He also included several comment sections from those media websites and social media pages.

The motion says the vast majority of comments on those pages display a deep prejudice against Bethune.

Wepseic cites the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantee the right to due process and the right to a trial before a jury, presuming it be a fair hearing and an impartial jury.

“The quantity and quality of the pretrial publicity in this case stemming back to February of 2014 and continuing until today renders it impossible for the defendant to obtain the fair trial before an impartial jury contemplated by federal and state constitutions,” Wepseic says in the court document.

“The defendant believes that the only means for him to have a fair trial before an impartial jury is (to) change the place of trial from Jackson County to a location which has not been subjected to the extensive publicity and prejudicial commentary noted herein (referring to the evidence included with the motion),” the court document reads.

Bethune has pleaded not guilty to all charges. 

David Robinson, the state’s attorneys appellate prosecutor, said the state will be filing an objection to the motion once Wepseic provides a memorandum citing case law to support his motion.



“The citizens of Jackson County deserve to render judgment on a crime that happened in that county,” he said.

Wepseic said he plans on filing that memo in the next couple of weeks, but could not give a definite time frame.

Chris Bonjean, director of communications at the Office of Illinois Supreme Court, said when a request comes in for an out-of-circuit venue, meaning a different county, usually, that decision is handled by the Administration Office of Illinois Courts in Springfield. He said that would be the office to determine where the proceedings would be moved.

The next hearing in this case is set for 9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 16.

top story
Chance meeting gives Herrin boy with diabetes confidence to help himself, others

HERRIN — On Oct. 4, 2016, Jaxon Hale, then 9 years old, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

At first, Jaxon was self-conscious about the self-care activities associated with the disease, such as taking shots, said his mom, Kristina Hale.

“If he wanted to go to a friend’s or have a snack at school, he had to take another shot," she said. "He did not like to take a shot while friends were watching."

That all changed with a chance encounter with a group of cyclists on a cross county charity ride.

When a child is diagnosed with diabetes, parents often seek information and support. The Hales, of Herrin, found several online resources.

Richard Sitler, The Southern 

The Hale family, (from left) Kristina, Jaxson, 10, Karlie, 15, and Jason are shown with painted omnipod magnets at their home in Herrin on Wednesday.

Jason Hale, Jaxon’s father, listens to a podcast called "Diabetes Connections" with Stacey Simms. In one podcast, Simms talked about Bike Beyond, a cross-country bicycle ride to raise money for diabetes research.

Bike Beyond was a ride from New York to San Francisco which happened June 4 through Aug. 2, and it raised more than $780,000 for Beyond Type 1.

“Everyone on the team has Type 1 diabetes,” said cyclist Abby Brau.

The ride is sponsored by Beyond Type 1, an organization that educates and advocates about Type 1 diabetes. The group also funds research.

“They like to show that anyone living with Type 1 can live beyond,” Brau said.

“We realized one of the places they would be was Eldorado,” Kristina Hale said.

Kristina wanted to set up a visit, and asked when they were going to be in Eldorado. Brau received the message and put Hale into contact with their support person, and it turned out the group would be in Eldorado that same day.

“We were able to meet them there as they were finishing their ride,” Kristina said.

“She and her husband and kids, along with a couple other families, were there to welcome us that night. They were there to cheer everyone on,” Brau said.

The riders chatted with the families after the ride and got to know them — something she said was good for Jaxon.

“I learned that I could do many things that I thought before I couldn’t do with Type 1," Jaxon said. "I thought their devices were pretty interesting. There was a little variety. Some of them had Omnipods."

Jaxon explained that he and his parents had been talking about getting some kind of insulin pump, but he really didn't know which kind he wanted.

“We found out more information about them and the riders answered questions about them,” Kristina said. “We were talking about pumps a little bit. This gave us an opportunity to see them in action and see how they worked.”

She added that hearing their CGMs (continuous glucose monitors) beeping made Jaxon realize he’s not the only one with diabetes.

“The last couple weeks of ride, we heard from Kristina again. She was able to share an update with us about Jaxon and their family,” Brau said.

Jaxon and his parents had decided on an Omnipod tubeless insulin delivery system, and he had received it. Hale reported that Jaxon was wearing his CGM and Omnipod and was more comfortable about it.

“It was an opportunity for us to see in real time the impact we had,” Brau said. “Meeting Jaxon made a difference. It was inspiring to us.”

“At first, it is kind of weird to wear something on your arm. But, a little later, it adapts to you,” Jaxon said.

Another thing that helped Jaxon accept his Type 1 diabetes was Camp Beta, a camp for diabetic children at Touch of Nature Center near Carbondale.

In 2017, the camp was free thanks to generous sponsors. Attendance for the camp normally costs about $265 per child.

“We pay out a lot every month just to keep him alive. The cost of camp is difficult for us, a family with two incomes,” Kristina Hale said.

Week-long camp in Missouri is $900 per camper. The Hales wanted to make sure that everyone who wants to go to camp can go, so Jaxon and his family have turned his Omnipod decision into a way to help other diabetic children.

The pods stick directly to the skin and are tubeless. He saw a post about painting the pods and turning them into magnets, so he began experimenting with painting them. He thought he could sell them to raise money to send another child to camp.

Richard Sitler, The Southern 

These are just some of the omnipod magnet artworks created by Jaxson Hale and other family members that they are selling to raise money for children to attend diabetes camp.

“We talked about that and as a family decided to do it,” Jaxon said.

Jaxon raised $250 early in January, and has added another $150 to that. The family has set goal of raising $1,000 by August or early September.

Raising money for camp is not Jaxon’s only goal — “I want to be on the Ellen Show,” he added.

To help the Hales raise money for Camp Beta or to purchase a magnet, contact them through their Facebook page, "Southern Illinois Type 1 Family."

Contributed by Jackson County Jail 

Gaege Bethune

Alexander County
Legal clinic in Cairo helps clean up criminal records in effort to allow access to jobs, housing

CAIRO — A Saturday event in Cairo hosted by the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation and others will take aim at helping those with criminal records clean up their histories with the goal of helping them get better jobs and housing.

“It’s hard enough to find work, so if you have something on your record that can be sealed or expunged, that can help that person find a job,” said Andrew Weaver, an attorney with Land of Lincoln.

The event will be Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Cairo Jr/Sr High School Cafeteria, and focuses on sealing and expunging qualifying criminal histories for low-income persons.

The Ready to Work Initiative, a partnership between Land of Lincoln, Man-Tra-Con, Rend Lake College and Southern 14 Local Work Force Investment Board Corporation, is made possible in part by a grant from the Illinois Lawyers Trust Fund, Weaver said, and works to break down barriers in terms of housing and employment for low-income persons.

“Expungement is a court-ordered process that allows a legal record of an arrest, court supervision or certain probations to be removed, or expunged, from that person’s criminal record," according to a news release about the event. "Sealing removes eligible criminal convictions from public record and prevents most employers from accessing a person’s criminal record without legal authority.”

This event may be especially important for some in Cairo and Alexander County. Last April, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it would be relocating all 185 families living in the dilapidated Elmwood and McBride public housing complexes in Cairo. They would be given vouchers to move throughout the public housing system in the region and in the country.

In heated meeting, HUD tells Cairo public housing residents they have to move

CAIRO — A gathering of Cairo residents erupted in anger Monday night as federal housing officials informed them that close to 200 families residing in two sprawling World War II-era family housing developments of the Alexander County Housing Authority will have to move out of their units in the coming months, and that there is no immediate plan to provide new government-assisted housing in Cairo to replace the developments they intend to demolish.

HUD Spokesman Jerry Brown said with this voucher system residents who are relocating, though they are currently in the HUD system, may be treated similarly as new residents. This means having to go through the application process, potentially including a background check.

“Relocating families could be subject to entry requirements of the individual landlords or the accepting (public housing authorities),” Brown said.

Weaver said Saturday’s event will be a good way to reach those affected by HUD’s decision and will be the first step in the process of cleaning up a person’s criminal history. He said participants will fill out eligibility forms for Land of Lincoln — he said one of the primary qualifications is if a person falls at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line — and also sign over permission to the group to begin working on their behalf.

Susan Simone, director of litigation and advocacy in Land of Lincoln’s East St. Louis administrative office, said a person wanting to begin the process has to be at least three years removed from the offense they are trying to have expunged and in that time has not committed any offenses that are misdemeanors or felonies.

Simone said not everything is eligible to be expunged or sealed. She said while legislation passed last year broadening what could be included in the process, offenses such as sex crimes, domestic battery, particular acts of animal cruelty and other crimes don’t count. She also said that expungement or sealing will not hide offenses from all types of background checks.

“If an employer is required by statute to conduct a fingerprint background check … even sealed records still would show up,” she said.

Weaver said after starting the process, a Land of Lincoln attorney will be with the participant every step of the way. However, he said court files will not be filed Saturday — the circuit clerk is not involved in the event, he said.

Weaver said there is no limit on who can show up Saturday.

“This is also not just for Alexander County residents or Cairo residents," Weaver said, "it’s just where we will be that day."

The news release said people should bring the case number, date of arrest, arresting law enforcement agency, charges brought and any paperwork they have relating to each case they are wanting to expunge. However, Weaver said if some of these documents are missing, it is not a problem.

“We want as many people to come to this as possible and not having that information should not deter them from coming,” Weaver said.

Weaver did say that there could be a long wait for some and noted that they will not have child care available.